Festival Tours

Tsechus (Religious Festivals)

Tsechus (religious festivals) are an intrinsic part of Bhutan’s tradition and culture. These are performed and celebrated all around the country at different periods. Literally, Tshechu means the “Tenth Day,” and is observed on the tenth day of a month corresponding to the lunar calendar, the birthday of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava).

The origin of Tsechus can be traced back to the 8th century, wherein Guru Padma Sambhava and the Abbot Shanti Rakshita, introduced the dances and performed it when the first Buddhist temple was constructed at Samye in Tibet. It is said that through the performance of the dances, spirits living in the vicinity of the temple were subdued.

Tsechus became diverse and the number of Chhams (mask dances) increased as  followers of Guru Rimpoche, especially treasure revealers (Tertons) and other enlightened masters, discovered instructions for such sacred dances, believed to be written by Guru Rimpoche and concealed in different places.

Every dance has a meaning and is a story narrated as the dances progress. Most are associated with the subduing of evil forces and in essence, speaks of the triumph of the good over evil.

From the secular point of view, Tsechus have social significances as it brings communities together, partaking in merrymaking, adorned in their best attires. People forget their mundane farm lives and celebrate.

While there are several Tsechus performed, we provide you an insight into some of the most popular ones. Your trips can be customised to include the Tsechus, along with other packages. Thus, we cannot provide a fixed itinerary. Based on the Tsechu you would like to visit, other interests and duration, we can weave itineraries that suit you.

Book Now

Venue: Jampa Lhakhang (Bumthang) grounds

Places you will visit: Western and Central Bhutan.

Entry : Paro 

Exit:  Paro

Summary:

Jamphel Lhakhang (Temple) is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, built along with Paro Kyichu in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Goempo. It is said that 108 temples were built within a day by the King, across the Himalayan region.

While there are several Chhams (mask dances), The Naked Dance of Jamphel Lhakhang Drub is one of the most unique amongst scared mask dances held around the country. At midnight, 16 naked men perform the sacred dance, which has its origins in the 8th century.

It is said that the dance was first held in Nabji Korphu in Trongsa by the great treasure discoverer, Tertoen Dorji Lingpa, on the prophecy of Guru Rinpoche.  Like several dances, this has a story, too.

Legend has it that a band of devils were obstructing the construction of a Lhakhang (Temple) in Nabji Korphu, delaying the work. As a ruse and to distract the devils, Terton Dorji Lingpa launched the naked dance. It served the purpose as the outrageous antics of the naked performers during the dance kept the devils spellbound. The construction was thus completed. The dance reached Jamphel lhakhang as Terton Dorji Lingpa also consecrated Jampa lhakhang.

This dance is performed by selected men from the four villages of Jampa lhakhang, Nobgang, Changwa and Nashphey.

Another speciality of the Festival is the performance of the fire dance.

Book Now

Venue: Gomphu Kora  grounds

Visiting Places: Western, Central and Eastern Bhutan.

Entry: Paro

Exit: Guwahati, Assam, India.

One can enter and exit from either Guwahati or Paro. If you enter from Paro, you will travel from the west to the east and leave from Guwahati. It will be the reverse if you enter from Guwahati. One can also decide to enter from Guwahati, watch the Tsechu and exit from Guwahati.

Summary:

One of the most awaited and popular festivals in eastern Bhutan, the Tsechu have an element of love associated to it. In the past, the festival served as an avenue where people chose their spouses, the first meeting occurring during the evening circumambulations. While this practice has dwindled, it is still alive.

The festival is held in one of the most sacred religious sites in Bhutan.  Gomkora derives its name from “Gomphu Kora” – “Gom” meaning meditation; “Phu” cave and “Kora” circumambulation.

Associated with Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava), it is said that the Guru meditated in a cave for three months and subdued the demon, Mongkhapa, locally known as Sewang Nagpo, who had fled Tibet and hidden in a rock at Gomkora.

Apart from Bhutanese, the Dakpa tribe from Tawang, the bordering Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, also join in the festive.

Book Now

Venue: Chorten Kora, Trashiyangtse district.

Other places: Western, Central and Eastern Bhutan.

Entry: Paro

Exit: Guwahati, Assam, India

One can enter and exit from either Guwahati or Paro. If you enter from Paro, you will travel from the west to the east and leave from Guwahati. It will be the reverse if you enter from Guwahati. One can also decide to enter from Guwahati, watch the Tsechu and exit from Guwahati.

Summary

This is a different Tsechu and circumambulation pervades.

At the centre of the Tsechu stands sacrifice and honour, which are the essences of this festival. The Tsechu is held in reverence to a pious Dakini Princess of the Dakpa tribe from neighboring Arunachal Pradesh, a district in India.

It is said that during the construction of the stupa (Chorten) there, the princess offered to entomb herself alive, as the Yeshe Semba, to meditate on behalf of all beings. Chorten Kora festival is a tribute to this ultimate sacrifice.

Of the two major circumambulation events, the first is the  Dakpa Kora (circumambulation of the Chorten by the Dakpas, which is held on the 15th day of the first lunar month. This is followed by the Drukpa Kora (circumambulation of the Chorten by the Bhutanese).

A modern Bhutanese movie has been made based on the story.

Book Now

Punakha Tsechu and Drubchen

Venue: Punakha Dzong (Fortress) grounds

Visiting places: Paro, Thimphu, Wangduephodrang

Entry and Exit: Paro

Summary

One of the Kingdom’s most popular Tsechus held in the Majestic Punakha Dzong (Fortress), the highlight of this festival is the Drubchen, which precedes the Tsechu.

Punakha Drubchen tells the story of 17th century Bhutan, when the Bhutanese were under siege by Tibetan forces. Devoid of a standing army of its own, the duty to hold the Fort fell on the local militiamen called “Pazaps”, from the eight great villages (Tshogchens) of Thimphu. The invaders were routed.

To celebrate the victory, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal introduced the Punakha Drubchen. The 17th century scene is re-enacted during the Drubchen with local men dressed as “Pazaps”.

The Tsechu follows the Drubchen.

Book Now

Thimphu Dromchoe and Tshechu Tour

Venue: Tendrelthang grounds inside the historic Thimphu Dzong (Fortress)

Visiting places: Paro, Punakha, Wangduephodrang (based on interests)

Entry and Exit: Paro

Summary

The three day Thimphu Tsechu has a blend of mask dances initiated in 1867, by the fourth Desi, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay, and those introduced in the 1950s, by the third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, Father of Modern Bhutan.

In the 17th century, dances were strictly performed by monks and the numbers of dances were few. However, the addition later added variety and color to the festival.
The highlight though precedes the Tsechu by three days and is the Thimphu Dromchoe, where Palden Lhamo, Bhutan’s chief protective deity is invoked.
There is also a story behind the Dromchoe, which was introduced by Kuenga Gyeltshen in 1710. Legend has it, that the deity Pelden Lhamo appeared before Kuenga Gyeltshen and performed the dances while he was in meditation. Based on these dances, Kuenga Gyaltshen initiated the Dromchoe.

Book Now

Venue: Paro Dzong (Fortress) grounds

Places to visit: Paro, Thimphu, Wangduephodrang (based on your interest)

Entry and Exit: Paro

Summary

One of the highlights of the Bhutanese calendar, Paro Tsechu brings hundreds of people from in and around Paro to the grounds of the great Paro Rinpung Dzong (Fortress on a Heap of Jewels.)

Mask dances are performed like any other festival. It is a cultural treat, for one will see all aspects of Bhutanese culture during the Tsechu, manifested in the dresses and jewelleries worn, special delicacies that people prepare and bring, music and dances performed, amongst others.

Mask dances performed by the monks convey several religious meanings, the core one being the triumph of the good over evil.

Book Now

Venue: Trashigang Dzong (Fortress) grounds

Visiting places: Western, Central and Eastern Bhutan

Entry: Paro

Exit:  Guwahati, Assam, India.

One can enter and exit from either Guwahati or Paro. If you enter from Paro, you will travel from the west to the east and leave from Guwahati. It will be the reverse if you enter from Guwahati. One can also decide to enter from Guwahati, watch the Tsechu and exit from Guwahati.

Summary

Held within the confines of Bhutan’s largest district in Trashigang Dzong (Fortress), the three day Tsechu is observed during the 7th to 11th days of the tenth month of the Bhutanese calendar (December).

The unfurling of the Thongdrel (Liberation at Sight) of Neten Chudrug (Sixteen Arhats) on the 10th day is one of the highlights of the festival. The Thongdrol of Guru Tshengyed is also displayed on the last day.

Hundreds of people from the neighboring districts of Trashiyangtse, and Mongaar join in the festive.

Book Now